Friday, April 14, 2006

Sports Performance as a Commodity

I really appreciate the effort Vern Gambetta makes to educate and provide educational resources--many from other disciplines--to the people, virtual or otherwise, around him. He is very generous. Many of these resources are out of print and their value can now only be communicated by word of mouth. Other notable people in the industry tend to guard their resources as "secrets"--fearful the next guy might make a buck or two. But Vern is an educator at heart, and teachers teach and attempt to make those around them better. Cool.

I wanted to share a concept I read last night from "The Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. The book discusses food production, along with many other aspects of agriculture, ecology and biology. In a section discussion industrial "organic" versus artisianal "organic" enterprises, he makes a great point that is applicable to the current trend of something I would call "industrial" sports performance. By "industrial" I mean entities like Velocity and Frappier Acceleration who sell the commodity of sports performance training on a very large scale; so large, they have even franchised the product. (Just so everyone knows, I was a part of the Velocity machine at one time. I lasted exactly 5 months and 4 days as an associate sports performance director.)

Here's the quote:

"Industrial farmers are in the business of selling commodities...a business where the only viable competitive strategy is to be the least-cost producer. The classic way any industrial producer lowers the cost of his product is by substituting capital--new technologies and fossil-fuel energy--for skilled labor and then stepping up production, exploiting the economies of scale to compensate for shrinking profit margins. In a commodity business a producer must sell ever more cheaply and grow ever bigger or be crushed by a competitor that does."

Those entities that sell sports performance to the masses, do exactly this. They sell impressive 24,000 square foot facilities, turf, or high speed treadmills to draw in the masses. And while some of their underlying concepts are good, the end-product is so watered-down--the teaching environments so sub-optimal and the labor so unskilled. The bottom line is survive to make $$$--not truly educate parents, coaches or athletes on the value of general physical preparation and movement. Check out the turnover at your local Velocity or Acceleration; check out the longevity of their franchises. Some survive; many do not.

For a different perspective on the sports performance model, check out The Center for Athletic Performance, just south of Kansas City, MO. Scott Moody and his staff have higher goals than just making money or selling bling--they just want to be better and do right by the kids and the parents.

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